Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Morale and Popularity

On Saturday we had a compromising situation arise that inspired me to an on-the-spot elegant solution.  At present, I have a party that is hacking their way through Ternketh Keep, bloody room by bloody room.  On Saturday they found the harpies and exhibited almost incomprehensible luck.  However, by the end of the night one a character's follower, Jafar, had died, being carved to pieces and left with -13 hit points.

Forgive the links - I just want the reader aware of my rules regarding these things.  Sometimes these blog posts look like a Wikipedia page.

The question arose - should the party use death's door to bring back the character that died?  The party's main cleric has the spell and the spell hasn't been cast; but it must be used quickly and as the party is fairly ragged at this point, they're not anxious to use a return to life spell on a non-leveled man-at-arms (for that's all that Jafar was) when one of their 4th lvl+ characters may die in the next room.

However, how should that effect the morale of those present who, having witnessed the use of the spell in the past, recognize that it probably won't be used for them?

It was at this point that I conceived of a different way to look at morale.

To cover what the link says in just a few sentences, I use a system where most followers and hirelings begin with a fairly poor morale.  I calculate this as the number needed to be achieved on 2d6, sort of like a saving throw.  Thus, the higher the number of a character's morale, the lower the character's actual morale (I'm thinking of reversing the roll so that a high number equals a high morale, but that's tricky and I haven't decided yet).  Basically, a 12 morale is very bad (success 1 in 36) while a 2 morale is very good (success automatic).  Usually the best morale that can be achieved is a 3 (better than that is reserved for henchmen.

At the time of his death, Jafar's morale was 8.  To give the morale of a few other characters, Calim's morale was 7, Fehim's was 9, Mazonn's was 9 and Attaman's was 8.

To determine how the rest of the party felt about Jafar's death, I made a morale check, rolling 2d6.  An eight or more would be a success, a seven or less would be a failure.  I judged the roll as a determination of Jafar's popularity, reasoning that a companion with a good morale (3-5) would be much more popular than someone with a bad morale (10 to 12).  This makes sense to me.  Someone with a good morale would be brave, eager, high-spirited and inspiring; someone with a bad morale would be miserable, cowardly, troublesome and therefore unwanted.

If the roll against Jafar's morale failed, then it could be presumed that the party in general didn't feel too much remorse at his death. Not raising him, therefore, could be seen as something understandable: not that they wished him evil, but that it was simply his time.  On the other hand, if Jafar's morale check succeeded, then Calim, Fehim, Mazonn and Attaman might be quite annoyed that the party chose to do nothing for their companion.

In the latter case, it might be reasoned that the party could still choose to say "No."  These are men who are intended to obey, after all, they're followers and hirelings.  However, one logical response could be that each person rebuffed by the party could have their morale raised by 1 point, across the board.  This would reflect the general discontent of the group without their needing to create a resurrection.  A hard decrease in morale like this would hurt a lot, particularly when we consider it is measured against 2d6 (the difference between a morale of 9 vs 10 is devastating).

I ended in rolling under Jafar's morale so that he failed.  It was his time.  The group was okay with him not being raised.

Of course, it did not occur to me afterwards that a die should have been rolled for each individual person; some would be content with Jafar's demise, others would be bitter.  Morales could be adjusted independently.  In future, this is what I will do.  In any case, I have a precedent that will be applied to other situations in the future.


Scarbrow said...

I find that the abundance of links to your wiki is positive, not at all detrimental. Abundant citations and multiple outlinks are part of what makes i.e. Wikipedia or TvTropes highly addictive. Your blog is thus better for it.

About your new ruling, I find it very elegant. Characteristics (like morale) are like mnemonic "coat hangers". The more rules and meanings that can be associated with them, the more useful they become.

JB said...

Agreed. It is an elegant solution for modeling the tightness (or lack thereof) of a party.

A lot of DMs would simply ignore this aspect of gameplay. I know that you hold yourself apart from "a lot of DMs" but I think it worth pointing out that this kind of post is good food for thought; others would do well to think about the relationship of the PCs to their nameless, faceless hirelings, and institute their own objective systems depending on the rules they're using. Just to enhance the immersive experience.

Jonathon said...

I think my favorite aspect of this is how it reinforces loyalty in both directions; the loyal follower with a high morale is someone you want to put resources into keeping around not just because she is reliable but because everyone else watches to see how you treat those who serve you most faithfully.

Meanwhile, everyone shrugs as you let lie the guy who fled from every confrontation and cowered in the ranks, because what did he expect when he wouldn't put his neck on the line for the rest of us?

It's one of the more elegant approaches to party-NPC dynamics I've seen, and I can see it applying in other situations beyond the one you present. I like it!

Maxwell Joslyn said...

This is good stuff.